Besides their dazzling appearance, Appaloosa horses are known for being gentle, friendly, and loyal companions.
But one Corvallis, Oregon, USA, gelding is touching the world with more than just his good-natured demeanour and striking brown speckles.
On 29 October 2022, together with his owner Morgan Wagner, the 22-year-old Appaloosa known as “Endo the Blind” achieved three remarkable record titles:
- Highest free jump by a blind horse - 106 cm (3 ft 5.73 in)
- Most flying changes by a horse in one minute - 39
- Fastest time for a blind horse to weave five poles - 6.93 sec
You may be wondering how the spectacular steed got his name.
When she was 13 years old, Morgan’s grandmother promised her she could have what almost every little girl dreams of: her very own horse.
Among the herd, one fascinating foal caught her eye. That horse was Endo.
“I first met Endo on my grandma’s farm when my family and I moved up from California to Oregon,” said Morgan.
“My grandma said I could have one of her horses, and I chose Endo. He had the most charisma and pranced around the other horses.”
Despite being just a few months old, there was something very special about this intelligent and loving horse.
“Endo has a big personality, that’s why I picked him out of all the babies my grandma had,” said Morgan.
“He thinks he’s the greatest horse in the world and he wants everybody to know that.”
Morgan and Endo grew up together, teaching one another everything there is to know about horseback riding.
From their very first dressage and riding experiences together, to mastering trotting through some of the trickiest patterns and obstacles, there wasn’t a challenge their incredible bond couldn’t face.
“In the beginning, I didn’t know how to put a halter on him, and neither did he,” said Morgan.
“He didn’t know what a halter was. We had to learn together, on our own.”
When he was eight years old, Morgan noticed Endo’s eyes tearing up and squinting often.
Morgan had her beloved gelding evaluated by a veterinarian, who diagnosed him with equine recurrent uveitis, also known as moon blindness or periodic ophthalmia.
“He continued to have flare ups and it got worse and worse as time went on,” said Morgan.
“With each flare up, it also damaged his eyes.”
The illness is one of the most common disorders of the equine eye and the leading cause of blindness in horses worldwide.
The chronic, painful eye disease is characterised by repeated episodes of inflammation of the uveal tract (the middle layer) of the eye.
Moon blindness was historically named for its misperceived association with the moon’s phases, but it is now known that it has nothing to do with the moon and can instead recur over the course of weeks or months.
Morgan worked together with Endo’s veterinarian to try and alleviate his pain by removing dust from his environment, rubbing prescription ointment on his eyes, and even taking him out for rides in the dark.
Endo’s pain unfortunately would not subside and when his right eye ruptured, Morgan made the incredibly difficult decision to have it removed.
Within months, Endo’s left eye also began to give him problems and had to be removed as well, forcing him to learn how to navigate a world he could not see.
“I didn’t know how Endo would handle blindness. That was something that we just had to try and see how it went.”
“I just hoped he would be happy eating in his stall without pain, so we started there,” Morgan continued.
And so, Endo, the horse who once faced new challenges with courage and determination, became Endo the Blind.
At first, losing his eyesight terrified him, and Morgan had to frequently coax him out of his stall.
“He was very scared in the beginning, so I took him for walks around the barn and then moved on to walks around the property,” said Morgan.
“Everything in small steps.”
But thanks to his owner’s love and support, Endo quickly recovered and once again became the confident horse Morgan first fell in love with.
It isn’t just Morgan who’s cheered Endo on from the bullpen.
He’s also frequently showered with extra love and encouragement from his special friend, Cinnamon, whom he shares a stall with.
“Endo has a miniature mare [friend] named Cinnamon, and I rescued her when Endo was starting to go blind, that way he would already have the bond with her when he went fully blind.”
And it wasn’t long before he was using his endearing personality and remarkable tricks to tug on everyone else’s heartstrings, too!
“Each record was something Endo already knew. We just had to practice and finetune it,” said Morgan.
“He learned to jump again after going blind because he competed in a discipline that required upper-level riding and obstacle work, and in that discipline, he became national champion at the highest level.”
Endo’s favourite trick, however, doesn’t involve trotting, jumping, or weaving; it involves eating.
“Endo loves to eat. That’s one thing I spoil him with,” said Morgan.
“He has four different types of hay in his feeder every day and a couple different types of grain. His buffet is always fully stocked.”
Morgan hopes the equine community will be motivated by Endo’s story and focus on the abilities of blind horses rather than their disabilities.
“Some advice for people with blind horses that are scared or confused on what they should do is to just take it step by step,” she said.
“Don’t have big goals, just what your horse can do, reward, and try a little bit more next time.”
In fact, Morgan says there are important life lessons that can be learned by spending time with blind horses.
"It makes me use my other senses, smell and hearing to learn what they 'see'," she said.
"I love watching Endo navigate around obstacles on his own. He knows exactly where everything is, even in new environments."
Morgan also wants the world to know just how proud she is of her equine friend, not just because of his record-breaking achievements, but because despite losing his eyes, he never lost his spirit.
“It feels amazing that Endo has three world records,” said Morgan.
“I’m very grateful to Guinness World Records for letting us have a platform for blind horses to show the world that they’re still capable of anything.”